Friday, May 23, 2014

The DIRT Network Roundtable; Volume 2

And here we are for round two of TDN roundtable. This is where all of our contributors here at TDN share opinion on any number of dirt racing related topics and pass on useful information, including the best places to eat after the races (Sheetz, and it's not even close), and expand on their thoughts.

1. Recently we've seen where All Star Sprint Association chief Guy Webb has said that the operation is currently running on 65% of last years sponsor revenue and some point fund money has not been paid or has been delayed speaking directly to Mike Heffner who basically had to work out an arrangement to get 2013's funds.  Penn Live Article- ASCoC Sprints That has happened before unfortunately in all divisions and all sanctions to varying degrees over the years, but when those two facts are coupled together, it does make one wonder. First. how concerned are you about the future of the All Stars and secondly, what would you do to help make the series viable and attractive to new sponsors?

I am concerned for the future of the All Stars. Not only due the financial concerns of the series but also due to the seemingly lack of interest by teams to follow the tour. Teams in Central PA and Ohio don't have to travel to get a decent payday. Smaller teams can't afford to travel to South Dakota for a race. I feel to keep the series viable and attract sponsors and teams, is to cut the schedule back to 25-30 races and stay where the cars are. Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, even a trip to Michigan. Lower sanction fees to get interest from tracks in those states that don't normally run Sprints, but have cars in the area to pull from.-Pat Miller

The All Stars would get a better following if they made the Florida Speedweek an East Regional title only and not for National Points. They need to realize what they are, a PA/OH series. Like Pat said they lose teams because they schedule races in South Dakota and Minnesota. Despite scheduling those tracks they do have a pretty good following this year with Haud, Blaney, Shaffer, Holtgraver and Kemenah leading the way. If they ran in OH, PA, maybe NY, MI and IN only I think they'd get a few more full time teams.- Jerin Steele

This bad press leads me to believe the All-Stars are in trouble for future seasons. This will probably result in the series re-defining itself next season with either a condensed schedule or maybe fewer races with increased purses and lesser travel times to attract more full-time drivers. Ohio Sprint Speedweek should remain a staple and as was discussed  above, the schedule should be focused on OH and PA. - Trever Steele

2. Keeping with sprints. It looks as if the top 4 have broken away a bit in the World of Outlaw standings as of now. And Daryn Pittman is in the middle of a surreal hot streak as we speak, yet only leads by a handful of points. We all know that Donny Schatz gets hotter as the season goes along, and Pittman stayed consistent and paced the way last year, but at this time do you feel that Saldana and McMahan will be able to keep up the same level over the course of the remaining schedule, and which one do you feel poses the biggest threat to Pittman and Schatz?

Pittman and KKR are so dominate this season. As I type this he has just put together four wins in a row, including two at the Grove. Even for how good Donny and company are during the summer, I think he's going to have a hard time keeping up. I must say I'm interested to see if Saldana can keep dominating qualifying. I want to see him put more wins together, and then I'd say he's a title contender. Still a long way to go.-Pat Miller

It is great for sprint car racing to see these four teams be as competitive as they have been this year. Four way points battles haven't happened too much in the World of Outlaws. Donny Schatz won't go away as obviously his track record shows when the purses increase in the summer he and his team step their game up. Pittman though has been outstanding. Some people had questions about that first title win last year (qualifying giving him a big points advantage etc) and he has answered them with his performance this year. McMahan and Saldana aren't going anywhere either. It should fun to follow all year long. - Jerin Steele

It's one of the most grueling schedules in all of motorsports, and with so many races it's no surprise that the champion often runs away with the title. However, this year it seems like the format will allow Pittman, Saldana, Schatz and McMahan all to have a reasonable shot at the title heading into the summer events. But in the end, I think that it will be Schatz and Pittman that prevails to battle for the title down the final stretch run.  I think that it will be hard for Saldana to continue rattling off quick times in time trials, but I do see him as the biggest threat to overtaking Schatz or Pittman for the title. - Trever Steele

3. Let's talk some late models for a minute. With Josh Richards sitting out this season and Darrell Lanigan in absolute command of the points, What will you be watching out for from the rest of the gang, what will keep your interest piqued? It seems like the most anti climactic WoO LM season in recent memory.

Lanigan is almost assuredly going to win the points this season, but that doesn't mean the series can't be interesting. McCreadie is turning up the heat and getting more comfortable in the Rockets. Eckert hasn't quite gotten used to the Rocket house car yet. Chub is looking better than he has in a few years. The ROTY race is pretty interesting. The Firecracker should be pretty interesting this year with what should be a stronger local/regional presence with less "national" stars showing up due to the NDRL race down south and no Bloomer or Richards.-Josh Bayko

Josh is right, Lanigan is pretty much a lock for the title. They also have to deal with the fact that their two crown jewel events The Firecracker and The USA Nationals were scheduled against by another sanction for the first time. Let's face it those races will not have as good of fields this summer. That doesn't mean the racing won't be good though. Like Josh said there may be a bigger regional presence, but I think the fact that it is a three day race weekend keeps some of those regional teams away. - Jerin Steele

 I think the story of the rest of the season will be if Rick Eckert can find a way to get some wins in the Rocket House Car and challenge Lanigan for the title.  Also, it will be interesting to see how the regional drivers stack up against the Outlaws at the major races like the Firecracker and USA Nationals. Only 12 Amains have been completed so far, I think its still a bit early to call it anti-climatic, there are still roughly 30 races left. - Trever Steele

4. Locally there are two subjects to broach concerning late models. First, Dog Hollow actually pulled off by all accounts, a successful Sunday rain date this past weekend. As of right now they're still running Friday nights, but could it be possible that it could be one area option for a Sunday only track down the road at some point and be viable to the tune of not going out of business? The place has endured some sharp criticism over the years (mostly deserved) but could this particular ownership group turn it around?

Obviously it's early on for the new management, but from a few of the racers and crew I know, I've heard positive things. Opening night they were registering cars until 7:30, and even ran out of food, but I really don't think they knew what to expect. This past weekend neither was an issue. Some of the positive things I've heard were that the new clay was providing a great racing surface and not a lot of dust, the pits were leveled out, and the grandstands were fixed up. I was kind of surprised they didn't actually schedule some Sunday nights, I know in the past they've had success with Late Model and Sprint specials. I hope they consider running more Sunday's being that there aren't a lot of tracks in the area taking that chance. I'm willing to give any racetrack a chance, I know what it was like before. Hopefully these guys actually listen to the racers and fans.-Pat Miller

They should absolutely switch to Sunday late afternoon/evenings as their regular night. They will always be playing third fiddle on Friday nights behind Lernerville and Bedford, and that will be reflected some in car counts, but more in fan counts as the season wears on. If they really want to maximize earnings potential, they could run Sundays and pull fans and a few cars from both tracks.-Josh Bayko

It's always good to hear of tracks reopening, especially a track that cut its season short the prior season. I was surprised to hear that the new management decided to make up the Friday rainout last Sunday. I'm not sure if its viable option to move to strictly Sunday racing, but I could see them scheduling some more specials on Sundays in the future. By the sounds of it, the new management is going in the right direction and they certaintly have the potential to make Dog Hollow successful again. - Trever Steele

5. And secondly, Stateline Speedway will be back open and operating again later on this summer, although we're not sure exactly what they have planned yet, but what does it's opening mean potentially to the NY/PA border late model scene. Should they try Friday and leave McKean with the Saturday dates? It seems like a lot of work and investment to get the place back up to par, will it be worth it?

I wish them the best up at Stateline and all... but the northern tier has a hard time supporting two super late model tracks, let alone three. Fridays are especially tough up that, as evidenced by the decline of Raceway 7 and the abject failure that was the last version of Tri City. Stateline would have just as much issue. The best thing for Stateline would be a specials only format, and bring in a bunch of different specials. Bring in the WoO late models or sprints. Bring in the SDS. Give USAC a ring and see if you can get in on the Eastern Storm next year. The NDRL KoD could be an option. So could the Lucas Oil series. Any of those are sure to bring in the fans in droves.-Josh Bayko

6. We don't condone fighting at the track, let's just understand that right now! But......from time to time, disagreements occur and fisticuffs prevail, this is human nature and has been a part of racing since it's inception. But tell us. what was the most memorable dirt track pit fight you ever saw, oh and it can't be one that you actually incited! Seriously, what's a pit disagreement that you've witnessed that you'll never forget?

This is a tough one. I've been around more shouting matches than actual brawls. It never seemed to guys in the "premier" classes either, it was always the guys racing for a cold pizza and a warm 6-pack. Guess it just goes to show you the passion of racers and crews at all levels.-Pat Miller

I've seen more fan fights over the years than racer fights. The closest thing I ever saw to a fight in the pits was a night at a paved Flemington in 94' or so. Asphalt modified star Pete Brittian was running late models at the time. He started dead last in the feature and won, hitting literally ever car on his way to the front. When he pulled into the pits, dudes were trying to punch him in the car. Pete got out of the car and it was quickly broken up. After everything died down, Pete just laughed about it. Pete was a funny, funny guy.-Josh Bayko

7. Lastly, the DIRTcar 358 Modified series opened up this past weekend to lukewarm car counts in Cornwall and Merrittville, and not much in the way of star power. The Canadian participation has always been good, but the tour itself just doesn't have much in the way of American support. Is this series in trouble? What can be done to save it, and lastly, should it be saved or re-introduced/repackaged altogether?

I don't think there should be big block modified and small block modifieds anymore. I think there should be modifieds that utilize the super late model engine rule of anything goes, and sportsman class that is crate motivated. Yes, I know, eventually all modifieds would be powered by an aluminum 430 built by Cornett or Clements or whatever, but you wouldn't have to worry about having different weights and different chassis for different engine combinations. Then you combine what is the 358 series and big block SDS into one bigger tour and combine point funds.-Josh Bayko 

And that'll do it for this edition of TDN Roundtable. We'll be at Lernerville and Mercer this weekend for Fab Four Friday and BOSS Wingless Sprint action on Saturday. Have a great memorial day weekend everyone and remember to honor the great veterans who sacrificed for our freedoms. To all you vets out there we say THANK YOU, for keeping us FREE!

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